LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It was 365 days ago that we all had sports taken away from us.
I can vividly remember sitting my office when I saw the news that would alter the way we all looked at the coronavirus.
It was the night of March 11, when the NBA postponed its season and announced that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, who had mocked the disease a few days earlier, had tested positive. His teammate, former UofL star, Donovan Mitchell, would be next.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reacted the way we all did when he got the news. The video of him looking at his phone and his mouth agape is unforgettable.
“Everything happened so quickly,” UofL head coach Chris Mack remembered.
It really hit home here, the college basketball capital, on March 12, with IU and UofL set to tip off that night in their conference tournaments, and UK preparing for the SEC Tournament in Nashville.
“Yeah I kind of got word what the NBA had done and I said, well, then it’s done,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I said there’s no way we’re doing this and then within 10 or 15 minutes they shut it down.”
“One or two of the coaches, I think when we were meeting, said they would bet a dollar to a donut that we weren’t going to play games and that the tournament was going to be canceled and I just remember thinking, get out of here, no way,” Mack recalls.
A stoic Vince Tyra discussed that decision with the media on March 12 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“The coaches and players are obviously disappointed, but we’ve got to look out for the safety, health, welfare of the athletes at this tournament as well as the fans and others,” Tyra said.
Mack had concerns about another tournament as well. “What is going to happen? I wonder what’s gonna happen with the NCAA Tournament,” he thought, “are they going to try to figure out what we can do to salvage that? And very quickly, in the next two, three hours, we got word that was canceled.”
At that point, the sports world hit pause.
“It was just unfair, but it was unfair for everybody and think about what we’ve been through,” Calipari said.
We all went into lockdown. The words of UofL women’s head coach Jeff Walz on March 15, 2020 proved to be prophetic.
“I’m just hoping that everyone here in Louisville, around the country, will start listening to what’s being told. Try to get social distancing, stay home if possible. If not it’s only going to get worse before it gets better and then we have no one to blame but ourselves,” Walz said on that day. His team had been considered a National Championship contender in 2019-20.
One year later, it finally feels like we’re getting to the other side. But we’re not there yet, yes, the NCAA Tournament is back, but just look at the ACC Tournament. Virginia and Duke both had to withdraw after positive COVID tests, and Kansas is out of the Big 12 tourney.